Original Title: The Damned United
Country: United Kingdom
Director: Tom Hooper
Genre: Biography, Sports
21.02.2020: This review was first published on 15.06.2018 and is being updated for a more complete review, together with the publishing of the YouTube Version.
Hello! Welcome to Ulven Reviews!
Award-winning director Tom Hooper is the one behind the English film The Damned United, depicting the ascension of the legendary Derby County and Nottingham Forest manager Bryan Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor.
World Cup Historic
The British, including Irish, Welsh, Scottish, and England were the ones responsible for spreading the football around the globe. England and Scotland are the first national team in history, they played the first international game ever, a Nill Nill draw, on November 30, 1872.
The Three Lions played in 14 FIFA World Cups, hosting and winning it in 1966. The best results after being crowned champions were two fourth places, in 1990 and 2018.
From the British Islands, England was the only country present in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, after the shameful robbing of Northern Ireland’s spot in the second round of the UEFA qualification.
The English team went through the group stage smoothly, to beat Colombia in the Round of 16 after penalties, the most violent match of the competition. Then they beat Sweden in the quarters and lost to Croatia, after extra-time, in the semis. In the dispute for the third place, England had to face Belgium again. The young English team, exhausted after two extra-times, lost 2-nill.
In the end, England had a great run, with a young coach and squad, equalizing a result they didn’t achieve since before I was born, and as an extra, got the Top Scorer of the tournament, Harry Kane.
Brian Clough was a footballer and manager, considered by many to be the best English coach in history. He was a popular choice for a manager of the National Team but, that never happened, making him known as “greatest manager England never had”.
Peter Taylor was a goalkeeper and manager. Even though he was a manager, he’s most known for his partnership with Brian Clough as his assistant manager for a good portion of their careers.
The two met each other while playing for Middlesbrough, and when Clough began his career as a manager, he called Taylor to be his assistant. They coached Hartlepools United, now Hartlepool United F.C., from 65 to 67 and then joined Derby County.
With Derby, the duo went from the Second Division, what is now the Championship, in the 1967-68 season, to winning the First Division, now called Premier League, in the 1971-72 season.
They left Derby County for Brighton & Hove Albion in 1973, a very unsuccessful spell. The following year, Clough left for Leeds United, this time without Peter Taylor, but only lasted eight games with the team from West Yorkshire.
The duo was reunited at Nottingham Forest from 1976 to 1982. Clough arrived in 1975 and remained there until 1993, winning 12 titles, including two European Cups, the equivalent of today’s UEFA Champions League.
Since we are mentioning Leeds, I would like to share a little clip of a beautiful, unforgettable day, with the best memory I have regarding Leeds United. The only sad thing is that I wasn’t there in person.
The Damned United
The Damned United portrays the rising of Clough (played by Michael Sheen) and Taylor (played by Timothy Spall), from when they arrive at Derby County, the rivalry with the coach Don Revie (played by Colm Meaney), to the moment Brian Clough leaves Leeds United.
First of all, let’s pretend the movie Cats (from 2019) never existed.
The English director Tom Hopper is now famous for the Oscar-winning movies The King’s Speech, Les Misérables, and The Danish Girl, but before all that, there was The Damned United. To me, it’s better and more fun than every single one of those I mentioned.
It’s a more straightforward movie, there are no sensitive topics, it’s not an epic. It has less appeal to your typical critic and member of The Academy, both of which I am not.
Clough and Taylor’s careers are tangled, so when you talk about one, you end up talking about the other. The Damned United it’s a kind of their love story or their bromance, as some people say. And also, it’s a kind of a love letter to the history of English football.
The way the movie presents us the story is non-linearly, going back and forth from their time in Derby County to when Clough was working in Leeds. It’s not a bad thing, but I prefer stories told in chronological order.
I know I didn’t mention my disliking of narratives not told in chronological order in the last review, The Silences of the Palace, I forgot, but it doesn’t make it less true.
With a stellar cast, one of the strongest points of the movie is the acting. I can’t praise Michael Sheen enough for this performance, the most remarkable role I’ve seen from him, by far. And even though Sheen was the one who shone the most to me, I can say very similar things about Timothy Spall.
Colm Meaney is also satisfactory as Don Revie, and I have to mention another two actors I love, Jim Broadbent, who played the Derby County chairman, Sam Longson and Stephen Graham as footballer Billy Bremner.
Someone I’ll mention just as a curiosity is Joe Dempsie as player Duncan McKenzie. Now, best known as Gendry in the Game of Thrones, he has a little participation in The Damned United, I can’t even remember if he has any line at all.
The characters are full of personality, and to be honest, I don’t know if their portrayal is accurate or not, but it was definitely amusing. Clough’s and Taylor’s traits complete one another, just like people say it was in reality.
I like football, most of the time, my TV keeps on sports channels, and from time to time, the commentators mention The Damned United as a great movie, and how well the game was represented in the film.
They were able to recreate a believable football, from decades in the past, on film. I think that making a good-looking match is already tricky since we barely see it, and they achieved it even better than Montevideo, God Bless You!.
The costumes and hairstyles from the late 60s and early 70s are on point, and the settings are also spectacular. Stunning locations, including pitches, training camps, and especially the beach.
The indoors are also good-looking. It’s like if the house in Jeanne Dielman looked actually appealing instead of dull and lifeless. The residences in The Damned United is the complete antithesis of Jeanne Dielman’s.
I absolutely love this movie’s cinematography. It’s one of my favorites and by far my favorite aspect of the film. Everything is gorgeous, the colors, the angles, and definitely the use of light and darkness.
One thing that bothered me a little was the short duration of the movie and how it made the film lack more nuance. I wanted to see more of the team’s campaign from the bottom to the top, not only a graphic of the table.
The score is decent, sound correct for the period the movie was set, matched the upbeat tone of the film, and, most importantly, it was not invasive, only used in the right moments.
It’s a movie I like a lot and have close to my heart, there are aspects I really love, but I felt it needed more. The Damned United has from me 8 Moons.